As members of the firefighting community, or any community of first responders, a day like September 11 is bound to make us feel a little differently than the general public. We’ve often heard wives and family members express a feeling of fear; fear their firefighter will be taken too soon, or more recently fear their firefighter will be caught in the crossfire of a war against police officers. But why spend our lives gripped by fear? Why not stand up, rise up and do something about it.
On the 14th anniversary of a day most Americans will never forget, let’s make it a point to do something different. Maybe this year you do something as simple as bring cookies to a fire station and simply thank them for their hard work. (P.S. If you need a great firehouse recipe our Eat Like a Firefighter Cookbook has you covered. So you should probably make sure you preorder soon!) Maybe you decide to share the details of that day with your children, to remind them what this country is made of; what we are fighting for. Because guess what folks, the United States didn’t crumble fourteen years ago. We grieved sure, but we got right back up, dusted off the rubble, and we fought. We didn’t let the terrorists win, let’s make sure you aren’t either.
So what can I do, you ask?
Well, a number of events take place every year to honor and remember the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Stair climbs are one of the most popular events, and are made up of participants climbing 110 flights of stairs, the same number that were in the World Trade Center towers, in honor of a fallen first responder. Many participants climb for the same fallen hero each year. We’ve heard stories of members connecting with the hero’s family and sending photos and their stories of remembrance. Countless climbers in Southern California participated in the San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 5 and helped Firefighter Aid to raise over $85,000 for first responders. Our own founders Lori and Dan Mercer are participating in the Columbus, Ohio stair climb on September 11. It’s a simple way to participate in an event that honors and remembers our fallen, while raising money for firefighter charities. Not only are these events positive and uplifting, but imagine the empowerment you feel when you do something; when you finish climbing 110 flights of stairs (which let me tell you is no easy feat) and know that not only did you not lay down scared because someone targeted you and your country, but you stood up and did something about it. Even doing a little something, is better than doing nothing at all.
Speaking of a little something, we’ve all heard of “Random Acts of Kindness” (or RAKs) so why not take a day with so much negative connotation, and change that up. Let’s make September 11 a day of service and gratitude. Do a little something to make another person associate this day with positivity or graciousness. It’s our choice to let this day be sad, it’s our choice to wallow. It’s just as possible to step up and do something positive to honor those we lost. If they were here today, do you think they’d want us mourning, or cowering in fear? I don’t think so. I think they’d want us to stand up and not let those who targeted us win.
Another way that we can be proactive to is educate our children on what this day means.
So few of our youth today really know what 9/11 was, what it meant to first responders and their families. Sitting children down and explaining what sometimes may be scary or gory details, provides them insight into not only the severity of the tragedy that befell our country, but how hard we’ve fought to overcome it. Let’s show them how we have moved forward and persevered, and in doing so we will honor and pay tribute to the sacrifices made. We talked about this around the same time last year, and there are some great ideas about how to do that here. Sometimes educating our youth even inspires them to act. Many of your children may ask, “what can I do?”. It’s a great opportunity to teach our children about charities that benefit firefighters and their families, or simply inspire those RAKs we talked about. Either way, injecting positivity into an otherwise morose day can help turn things around.
No one’s asking you to walk through this crazy fire life with blinders on. It’s ok to be prepared, it’s alright to be realistic.
It’s a good idea to know that if that dreaded call comes, if there’s a knock on the door that changes your forever, there’s a plan in place and you know what to do. But it’s up to us to take that knowledge and be confident in our preparation, and to then live each day with positivity and a purpose; to not live gripped by fear that one day might be the last. Similarly, it’s our choice to decide what to do with a day like September 11. We can remember, and heck we can even grieve a little. But what does that really do? Who does that really honor? Paying honor doesn’t always mean we have to be sad. What if instead, we inject positivity and light into this day, we stand up and take action; what if we remind the terrorists who really won here? We did. We won because our men still decide to be heroes every day, despite the cost; we won because our country rose from the ashes; we won because there is still good in this world, as long as you look for it. So this year take a minute to ask yourself, what can I do to inject a little positivity into this particular day? I guarantee whatever it is that you decide, it will change someone’s perspective just a little. And as we all know, a little really does go a long way.
If you read all this and still feel a bit nervous and fearful, it’s ok and understandable, especially considering the increase in violence towards police that sometimes spills over into the fire service. We will always be faced with challenges. But we don’t have to face them alone. If you are looking for someone to connect with about this, please reach out to our free peer support communities, the Fire Wife Sisterhood and the Honor Guard. Register here.
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